‘White elephant’ Law Reform Commission incurs $113M in expenses

Some four years after the Law Reform Commission Act was passed in the National Assembly, the entity is yet to be fully established and according to former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, millions of dollars continue to be wasted to pay staff and rental for a building.

Former AG Anil Nandlall

Nandlall pointed out that since 2016, approximately $113.3 million have been allocated to fund this Commission and as of January 2020, not a single Commissioner was appointed to this Commission.
“To date… it remains a white elephant. It has done not a single work,” he contended in a statement on his Facebook page on Friday.
The Law Reform Commission Act, which was piloted by Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams, was enacted in January 2016. The Law Reform Commission (LRC) is a statutory body which shall consist of three to seven members including a Chairperson, who is appointed by the President, following consultation with the Minister of Legal Affairs.

Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams

According to the law, the Commission is mandated to review, simplify, modify and systematically develop the law.
Nandlall reminded that during the 2018 National Budget Debate, based on a question he asked, AG Williams disclosed that the Commission is staffed with 10 persons. These persons, according to the former AG, are being paid the salaries for doing nothing.
He said the Legal Officer gets $700,000; two Office Assistants earn $100,000 each; two Legal Clerks get $150,000 each; three Typists earn $130,000 each; a Driver $120,0000 and a Cleaner $75,000.
This amounts to a total of $1,785,000 in salaries per month.
He went on to explain that if these persons were hired by 2016, then based on those figures, the total salaries that would have been paid from June 2016 to December 2019 (43 months) would amount to $76,755,000.

The building on Robb Street rented for the LRC

Nandlall noted that this is added to the cost for the rental of a building, located at Lot 59 Robb Street, Bourda, Georgetown, to house the Law Reform Commission. That property is being rented for $850,000 per month. For the 43 months, rental costs would amount to some $36,550,000.
This means that a total of $113,305,000 has been ex pended to date on the non-performing Commission.
“So, Basil Williams has wasted $113,305,000 on this single initiative, which has not produce a single piece of law reform in five years. The wastage continues…,” Nandlall contended.
While the law says the appointment of the members is vital to the function of the LRC, there were talks in April 2019 that three candidates were shortlisted to be appointed as Commissioners.
AG Williams had explained that these Commissioners will have to be appointed by President David Granger, who at the time was in Cuba.
“We hope to activate them. They’ve shortlisted three persons. When the President returns, it is actually for the names that were identified by the panel… so when the President [returns] the only thing left is to appoint these Commissioners.”
Pressed for the names of the candidates, Williams only said that they are experienced individuals in drafting laws.
According to the LRC Act, the Commission will have the duty to “keep under review all the law applicable to Guyana with a view to its systematic development and reform, including in particular the modification of any branch of the law, the elimination of anomalies, and the repeal of obsolete and unnecessary enactments.”
It is also mandated by the law to receive and consider suggestions for the reform of the law. These suggestions, according to the Act, can be made on the invitation of the Commission and can come from Judges, public officials, lawyers and the general public.
The Commission also has to “prepare and submit to the Minister specific programmes for the examination of different branches of the law with a view to reform including recommendations as to whether such examination should be carried out by the Commission or some other body.”
In order to fulfil its functions, it is allowed to set up law reform committees that would examine particular aspects of the law to make their recommendations. These committees, according to Section 8 (2) of the Act, do not have to be restricted to legal professionals.